Penpont Heritage Centre

Penpont Rifle Volunteers

Penpont Rifle Volunteers 1860-1885

'Defence not Defiance' 

The Volunteer Force came into existence in 1859 as an army of home defence. With most of Britain's regular army on service in the outposts of the Empire, the British Isles were vulnerable to attacks by the French.

The Rifle Volunteer movement in Upper Nithsdale was established at a meeting in the Queensberry Hotel in Thornhill on 31 October 1859. The Duke of Buccleuch proposed: "That it is expedient that a Volunteer Rifle Corps be formed in this district, comprehending the parishes of Kirkconnell, Sanquhar, Penpont, Durisdeer, Tynron, Keir, Closeburn, Morton and Glencairn".

The Penpont Company of Volunteers was formed in 1860 and were numbered 4th in Dumfriesshire. Three officers were commissioned: Captain John Gilchrist Clark, Lieutenant Robert Kennedy and Ensign George Dalziel.

Rifle shooting was of extreme importance and as well as routine practise,  monthly medal competitions were held at the rifle range at Glengar Farm. These were community events which attracted strong local support. Contemporary newspapers reported these events as they do football matches today.  Some of the better shots competed in national events. The National Rifle Association owes it origins to the Volunteer movement.

The  original rifle used was the Long Enfield .577 which was superceded by the Short Enfield.577 probably in June 1865. They may have used the Snider-Enfield .577 in the 1870s and are known to have shot with Martini Henry rifles in July 1886 for the first time.

The volunteers initially had a uniform of a tunic and trousers of Elcho grey with scarlet collar, cuffs, piping and Austrian knot, worn with a brown waist belt.

The shako was Elcho grey with scarlet band and ball tuft. The badge was a bugle and crown with '60' (the number for Dumfriesshire) in the centre of  the bugle.

Swords were only worn by officers on ceremonial occasions.

In 1876 the uniform changed to scarlet tunic with yellow facings and Austrian knot, blue trousers with scarlet piping and black busbie with yellow and black plume. Belts were white.

In 1860 Queen Victoria reviewed the Volunteer Forces in Holyrood Park, Edinburgh. Among the 20,000 volunteers on parade was the 4th Dumfriesshire (Penpont)  company who were represented by two officers, five sergeants, two corporals and fifty-three men. This is the only known muster roll of the Penpont Company.

Twenty-one years later almost double the number of volunteers again paraded in from of Queen Victoria at what beame known as the 'wet' review. Among them were two who have been at the previous review: Captain George Dalzieland Private Currie.

In April 1880 the Penpont Company was redesignatedE(late 4th) and on 23 March 1885 the Penpont Company bacame a section of C Company, Thornhill.

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